Chinese scavengers rob graves of 840 Royal Navy sailors killed in World War Two

Ruthless Chinese metal scavengers are stripping two Royal Navy shipwrecks, the final resting place for hundreds of sailors killed in World War Two.

The desecration of battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse in the Far East was revealed by MP Luke Pollard a couple of years back, but it continues to this day.

The Sun showed pictures of the huge dredger Chuan Hong 68 in the area off the coast of Malaysia "circling" the British wrecks.

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Diver Hazz Zain, who helps to protect the wrecks, said: “The barge was being circled by a small boat.

“I alerted the enforcement agencies.”

Malaysian heritage authorities and local police said the police will investigate the matter.

Both vessels were sunk when they came under Japanese air attack off the east coast of Malaysia in December 1941.

The ships were bombed with the loss of 840 sailors just three days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The UK Government admits significant damage has already occurred to the wrecks. Mr Pollard, who represents Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, wants them protected and accorded the same respect as Commonwealth war graves.

Former Sea Lord Admiral Lord West previously moved to try to protect the wrecks. He ordered the salvage of Prince of Wales’ bell after it was targeted by scavengers.

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He said: “They are war graves — in our waters we look after them, but in someone else’s waters they have to look after them.

“It’s extremely worrying — the Malaysians said they would look after them. I’ve had letters from relatives of those lost on the ships.

“To think someone is ripping up the metal where bodies lay, it has a huge impact on the next of kin.”

Police chief Datuk Kamarul said: “An investigation has started. British authorities have been informed.”

The Ministry of Defence said: “We strongly condemn any desecration of any maritime military grave.”

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